20 Clashing Personality Traits That Risk Incompatibility In Relationships

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It’s one thing if you say tomAHto and your partner says toMAYto, and another thing entirely if you say tomAHto and your partner asks what you mean by that and whether you’re trying to tell them to eat a salad.

We all have differences, but some contrasting attributes can only lead to disaster in the long run.

Below are 20 clashing personality traits that risk incompatibility in relationships.

1. Emotional vs. Rational

An emotional person makes decisions based on feelings and intuition, while a rational person prioritizes logic and reason.

It can lead to serious conflict when one partner wants to make important life decisions based on emotions while the other tries to make a rational decision based on data analysis.

The emotional partner may resent the rational one for not being attuned to their feelings. In contrast, the rational one will get annoyed—or even contemptuous—at the other’s lack of logic and “woo-woo” decision-making.

2. Introverted vs. Extroverted

Imagine one partner thrives on connection with other humans. They need to be around others at all times and love high-energy parties or festivals where they can talk to hundreds of people, dance, play, and shine like sparkly diamonds.

This is worse than hell for an introvert who prefers quiet alone time immersed in their own thoughts or solo pursuits.

Although the introvert may tolerate a small social function now and then, and the extrovert may be okay with the occasional night in, they’ll eventually feel too trapped and miserable to stay together.

3. Optimistic vs. Pessimistic

A person who always looks on the bright side will inevitably be brought down and depressed by a pessimist who sees the sh*t lining around every sunbeam.

The optimistic partner will be positive about the future and will want to make plans they can pursue together.

But the pessimist will find the flaws in every suggestion and may wonder why they should even bother since things will likely be far worse than either of them could possibly imagine.

4. Competitive vs. Cooperative

This one can cause intense conflicts, as a competitive person will confuse and upset a partner who is more focused on cooperation in work, play, and beyond.

Instead of working together as a team, the competitive one will focus on rivalry and winning, which the cooperative partner simply won’t understand.

A lovely bike ride turns into a race, or a discussion turns into an argument that needs to be “won” instead of resolved together.

5. Traditional vs. Non-conformist

A lot of people see their partner’s potential instead of appreciating them as they are, which doesn’t bode well in traditional vs. nonconformist pairings.

A traditional person might fall in love with a free spirit and believe they can tame them into their ideal partner. A non-conformist might feel they can change their partner’s mind and expand their horizons towards the unconventional.

This rarely works, especially if one has deep roots in cultural or religious traditions, and the other insists upon individuality and non-adherence to cultural expectations.

6. Highly sensitive vs. Thick-skinned

A highly sensitive person (HSP) feels things intensely and is often deeply affected by what others perceive as small things.

They might see something upsetting and be distraught for days or weeks, whereas a thick-skinned person will acknowledge it, but shrug off any emotional impact and never think of it again.

Those who are thick-skinned are also less emotionally reactive when it comes to discussions and disagreements, whereas an HSP may go from 0-100 in seconds, resulting in emotional outbursts.

A thick-skinned person will find this distasteful or off-putting and the HSP will wonder if their thick-skinned partner is dead inside.

7. Serious vs. Light-hearted

Playful, light-hearted people naturally love to have fun, be mischievous, and frolic around whenever the opportunity arises.

In contrast, serious folks are more stoic and intense and get irritated or frustrated by those who don’t seem to take anything seriously.

They’ll inevitably be told to “lighten up” by their playful partner who thinks they’re being a stick in the mud, and thus retaliate by telling the light-hearted one to “grow up”.

It’s a potentially incompatible pairing that could be damaging to both parties.

8. Service to Self vs. Service to Others

All through’ the day

I me mine, I me mine, I me mine…

These Beatles lyrics apply to a great number of people who prioritize their own needs and wants over those of others.

This can cause immense hurt in relationships where one partner dotes on their loved one with thoughtfulness and consideration but receives little to no service in return.

Those who serve others often wear themselves thin taking care of their partner’s needs, only to feel neglected or even ignored until their attention is required again.

9. Conflict-avoidant vs. Confrontational

If you’re a straight shooter, you likely want to address issues as they arise so solutions can be found as quickly as possible.

This may cause outright panic in a partner who is conflict-avoidant and would rather choke down any negativity they feel for the sake of maintaining familial peace and harmony.

When it comes to dispute resolution, conflict-avoiders freak out if someone is direct or assertive. They prefer to pretend everything is fine, even to their own (and everyone else’s) detriment.

This doesn’t fly for those who are solution-oriented and inevitably results in tensions and tears.

10. Independent vs. Dependent

The independent partner is likely to get frustrated with one who constantly needs help, guidance, and direction.

Meanwhile, the dependent one may either feel like a burden to their capable, independent partner or feel they aren’t getting enough attention or help.

The independent partner may try to push the dependent one to do more things themselves, which exacerbates feelings of incompetence, or not being “good enough”.

The more needy one may feel resentment about their partner’s independence, and attempt to sabotage their efforts to make them stay home to care for them.

11. Nurturing vs. Self-sufficient

Although this is related to the clashing traits above, they’re quite different.

Some people show their love for others by nurturing them as best they can. This can range from making their lunches to tucking them in at night, doing their laundry, etc.

Their acts of service are meant to show their loving devotion but can be seen as patronizing or insulting to a person who’s always taken care of themselves.

Those who are self-sufficient may think their partner views them as incompetent. Or they might simply want to do things their way and dislike having self-sufficiency taken from them as if they’re an invalid with no say in their own life.

12. Risk-averse vs. Thrill-seeker

Thrill-seekers are also referred to as “adrenaline junkies” because of the high they get from taking various risks.

In contrast, risk-averse people generally try to anticipate every potential harm that may occur and then decide on the safest option possible.

A person who prefers safety and stability will be unnerved and frustrated by someone who seems perpetually intent on risking themselves in the most mangling ways imaginable.

In contrast, a thrill-seeker will be bored to tears by a partner who does the equivalent of wearing a helmet indoors just in case the ceiling falls down one day.

13. High energy vs. Low energy

If you’re a high-energy person, you likely GO GO GO from the second you wake up until the moment you collapse into bed. You love physical activity and sensory stimulation and easily have enough energy to go out clubbing after working a 10-hour shift.

In contrast, a low-energy person has just enough energy to work eight hours, after which point they collapse into their potato avatar and remain motionless until morning.

The two of you will never be happy adapting to each other’s lifestyle – one of you will never keep up and the other will expire from boredom.

14. Materialistic vs. Minimalist

A person who places immense importance on monetary wealth and possessions will never understand someone who prefers austerity and minimalism.

It’s the difference between a cluttered Victorian parlor without a single bare spot on a shelf and a Zen-inspired room containing only a zafu cushion and a low table with a teacup on it.

Those who appreciate the simplicity of minimal living feel stifled by too many possessions and don’t need to prove their wealth to others via material goods.

In contrast, materialistic people may look down on those who live simply and minimally, because, to them, worth is associated with belongings.

15. Expressive vs. Stoic

We’ve all seen people who have sobbed loudly at funerals while others remained silent, as well as those who leap about in glee versus those who simply smile and quietly express their gratitude.

Stoic people value emotional control and prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. They may cry privately if upset, but for the most part, they remain emotionally steady and never lose composure in public.

As such, they often feel contempt towards those who “make scenes” in public by being—in their eyes—overly emotionally demonstrative. They perceive emotionally expressive people as juvenile and lacking in self-respect.

Meanwhile, those who freely express every emotion that flows through them see stoics as cold, unfeeling robots who unsettle them and make them feel embarrassed for expressing how they feel.

16. Planner vs. Spontaneous

If your partner is comforted by routine and you burst in to take them on a spontaneous, surprise trip to Paris, they might throw up.

Seriously, what you think is an exciting and romantic whirlwind gesture will make them short-circuit and hyperventilate in panic.

They like to plan everything to the last letter (including contingency plans) and micromanage to the Nth degree.

This can be extremely frustrating to a partner who prefers spontaneity, who changes their plans on a dime, and who feels bogged down by restrictive plans.

17. High maintenance vs. Low maintenance

High-maintenance people often need a lot of care, attention, and support, whereas low-maintenance types are more chilled and independent.

The former might seek out constant reassurance, guidance, affection, and external validation, while the low-maintenance partner is perfectly capable of sorting things out on their own.

Furthermore, those who are high maintenance may have specific expectations for their partner, whereas those who are low maintenance simply accept their loved one as is.

As you might imagine, one inevitably ends up feeling perpetually disappointed while the other feels stifled or drained.

18. Adventurous vs. Homebody

When you think of things you want to experience, do they involve parasailing and shark diving? Or trying out different popcorn flavors while watching movies at home under your favorite blanket?

Adventurous people generally feel resentful of homebodies who prefer the comfort of routine and familiar surroundings over adventure and excitement.

They feel that life is to be lived and filled with wondrous experiences, while homebodies prefer the quiet contentment of a warm hearth and good food.

It’s basically an elven ranger versus hobbit situation here: they might get along in small doses, but not as long-term life partners.

19. Sober vs. “Consumer”

Although you may not think of this as a conflicting set of personality traits, it has broken apart countless relationships over time—most recently Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara.

These two seemed perfect together, but the frustrations that arose from his teetotaling vs. her drinking habits ended up being irreconcilable.

A person who chooses complete sobriety, particularly because of alcohol problems or religious beliefs, will inevitably feel frustration or even contempt toward a partner who enjoys inebriation.

In turn, the one who likes to drink or take recreational drugs will wish their sober partner would lighten up, and may even try to pressure them to join in.

20. Opposing Love Languages

This one deserves an honorable mention as it’s often an underlying source of disharmony in relationships.

If one person’s love language is physical touch and the other’s is acts of service, they may feel unappreciated or unloved by one another.

A person who puts time and effort into doing nice things for their partner might feel unappreciated (or even insulted) if they’re given a gift instead of having things done for them.

And a person who prioritizes physical touch may feel neglected if their partner tells them that they’re cared for, but doesn’t show it physically.

And so on…


The pairings listed here can cause significant conflict in relationships.

If you find that you and your partner have irreconcilable traits, you may want to rethink this relationship. Otherwise, you may end up experiencing far more strife than happiness as time goes by.

That said, understanding each other’s natures and having a playful and humorous attitude toward them can make it far more likely that you’ll find a way to navigate your polarized personalities.

That bike ride race can turn into a joke, and you can make effective decisions by finding a middle ground between intuition and logic.

If you can learn to meet halfway with these 20 clashing personality traits, anything is possible.

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About The Author

Finn Robinson has spent the past few decades travelling the globe and honing his skills in bodywork, holistic health, and environmental stewardship. In his role as a personal trainer and fitness coach, he’s acted as an informal counselor to clients and friends alike, drawing upon his own life experience as well as his studies in both Eastern and Western philosophies. For him, every day is an opportunity to be of service to others in the hope of sowing seeds for a better world.